Joining up – the legionary

Height: 1.75M (5’8”) tall.


·       have excellent vision and hearing.

·       be able to read and write.

·       be a Roman Citizen.

Length of service: 25 years.

Army organisation

8 soldiers = a contubernium

10 contubernia = a century (80 men)

6 centuries = a cohort (480 men)

10 centuries = a prima cohors (800 men)

9 cohorts + 1 prima cohors = a legion (5120 men)

Structure of the army

1: The Legate = commands a legion, always a senator and picked by the emperor.

2: Tribunes = six officers lead by a senior tribune, the Legate’s right hand man.

3: Praefectus Castorum = the camp prefect responsible for building camps when the army is on the move.

4: Primus Pilus = senior centurion.

5: Centurion = in charge of a century.

6: Optio = a centurion, second in command.

The Legionary = foot soldier.

The Auxiliary = non-citizen soldier from the provinces, grouped into cohorts of 500 or 1,000 men. Earn less money then legionaries.

The Cavalry = On horseback and usually in the minority. They cost more money as they had to equip their horse as well as themselves.

Special jobs


Aquilifer = bears the legion’s standard, topped with the Roman eagle (aquila).

Signifer: Carries the standard. In charge of the burial club.

Cornicen: the horn blower. Helps you to march in time and plays musical orders such as ‘time to eat’.


Pilum (Javelin) wooden shaft up to 120cm or 4 ft long with a sharp point.

Gladius (sword) blade 60cm or 18in long. Covered in a scabbard with a long strap that hangs over the shoulder.

Pugio (Dagger) a large secondary weapon also covered in a scabbard.

Scutum (Shield) Made of wood and curved to protect the body, about 120cm (48in) high and 70cm (28in) wide. Held together with an iron rim and central hand covering called a boss.  

Legionary Soldier                         Auxiliary Soldier 


Tunic – short sleeves, the length would vary but usually down to the thighs or knees, made of linen or wool.

Bracae or short trousers – needed in northern climates.

Lorica – body armour most auxiliary units wore Lorica hamatta or mail armour and Legionaries wore Lorica segmentata or segmented body armour.

Helmet – lined and padded to fit this would have protected the head.

Boots – studded leather boots were required on the frontier, in warmer climates soldiers wore caligae but these open toe sandals would not suit the Northumbrian climate.

Cingulum militare – military belt with studded leather strips hanging down in front.

Cloak – made of wool this would have kept you warm in daytime and doubled as a blanket at night.  

Focale – neck scarf to stop armour from rubbing in at the neck.